Tag Archives: David Koch

Philanthropy, Weaponized

In a recent series of articles, The New York Times detailed how nonprofit think tanks are rife with conflicts of interest.

The Times reported how corporations made charitable donations to certain think tanks, which then happened to undertake studies that benefited those corporations. The Times also reported how associates of think tanks worked simultaneously for corporations affected by their studies. One scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, for example, wrote articles and testified in front of Congress urging the rejection of increased regulation of the internet – without revealing that he was also a paid consultant for Verizon and its trade organization. Another scholar at the American Enterprise Institute testified before Congressional committees in favor of increased military spending – while simultaneously serving as a paid lobbyist for Pentagon suppliers. The list goes on, and on.

But The Times missed the bigger story: the fundamental problem with the think tank industry itself. Many of the best-known think tanks are charities in name only. They have no mission beyond helping persuade the public and bully the government into accepting policies promoted by the think tanks’ founders and boards. Continue reading

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Naming Rites

It’s not unusual for people to change their names. Last names change with marriage, divorce, career changes, whim, and the urge to assimilate. My maternal grandparents anglicized their surname “Medvedsky” to “Meadow” within a few years of arrival in America. (Family legend has it that my Great-Uncle Harry, who reputedly was a low-level operative in the New Jersey mob, insisted on the name change. His siblings wisely and swiftly complied.) First names change as well, with evolving tastes and preferences. A quick visit to the local magistrate is usually all it takes for a new identity.

But when nonprofits want to change the name on a building, it’s a much more public – and complicated – exercise.

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Identity Laundering

Some charitable gifts are made with open hearts and great altruism. Other charitable gifts are made largely to curry favor or gain attention. And then there are gifts that use charity purely to further the donors’ political and financial interests. Here’s a story about how a pair of famous billionaire brothers have manipulated charitable giving laws for personal and political ends – all while taking advantage of technicalities to cover their tracks and protect their pet charities.

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